More than a fifth of employers say they would be less likely to employ someone if they have a disability, research commissioned by the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity has found.

The findings confirm the serious discrimination and stereotypical views still faced by many disabled people when they try to get and stay in jobs.

By the age of 26 disabled people are four times more likely to be out of work or not in education, compared to non-disabled peers.

Of those line managers who are less likely to employ a disabled person, almost 3 in 4 (73%) say they would be concerned they would struggle to do the job. Six in 10 (60%) of line managers say the costs of workplace adjustments are a barrier to employing a disabled person. This is despite government funding being available.

Hannah, 26, has cerebral palsy and a degree in digital media. In job applications since graduating she has encountered problems such as employers not understanding relocation as an issue for disabled people, or in some cases inaccessible interview locations.

“There’s a different reason every time I’ve been unsuccessful, but I do feel disability discrimination has been a factor,” she said. “Employers need to recognise that every disabled person has different needs and would be effective employees if the right equipment and support is in place from the start”.

Even if disabled people are able to secure employment, lack of inclusive workplaces means they are often forced to leave jobs. Research for Leonard Cheshire Disability in 2016 showed one in 10 of those who reported quitting due to their disability said they did so because physical adjustments were not made or requests for flexible working were turned down. 

Official government figures show that more disabled people currently leave the workforce than enter it.

The government’s Access to Work scheme can help fund adaptations or any equipment such as assistive technology so that disabled people can thrive in workplaces but there was widespread ignorance among employers of this funding. Only 2 in 5 employers say they have heard of the scheme in the latest research.

Untapped talent

Leonard Cheshire’s Untapped Talent campaign is calling on the government and employers to recognise the huge potential and benefits that disabled people bring to the workplace. It wants greater promotion and funding of schemes that can help and for more employers to work with them.

Neil Heslop, Leonard Cheshire Disability CEO, said: “Employers of all sizes have a huge role to play in closing the disability employment gap. Sadly, too many still seem to have the wrong idea about taking on disabled people.

“We will continue to work with employers to help them create inclusive and supportive workplaces that benefit everyone.”